Name of the organisation. City. Office Address. How was the office?
Self Employed Women’s Agency (SEWA), Ahmedabad
SEWA Reception Centre, Opp. Victoria Garden, Bhadra, Ahmedabad – 380
The office was fine, pretty fancy for an NGO. It’s basically an office building with 5 floors. Each floor has a different arm of the NGO. And the ground floor is a shop which basically sells the organic products the women make. Mostly authentic gujarati snacks. And they are so good.
I worked with around 20 women.
Duration of internship
November 15 – December 15 2012
Application procedure? Internship Contact Details
Application procedure includes writing to them/ calling them till they decide they have place for an intern, they have no set procedure or a program.
Phone : 91-79-25506444 / 25506477 / 25506441, Fax : 91 – 79 –
25506446, Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Duration in weeks. Days of work per week. Timings.
6 days of work (Monday – Saturday)
10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
First impression, first day, formalities
The first impression I got was that most workers were female. There was a definite hierarchy and the environment wasn’t very welcoming. It had a very office like feel. However, most of the women there were married mothers and quite nice. They also had a couple of foreign interns (that I bonded with rather well).
They had up to date electronics; wide screen Dell desktops (and no, I wasn’t given one). Also, you had to get your own packed food, you couldn’t go out to eat.
The first day went by very, very slowly. I wasn’t given a computer to work on and I just sat there for 8 hours doing practically nothing. Formalities only basically included talking to the head there. Everything was reported directly to her.
After a very disappointing first day, I was called by the head and told I shouldn’t expect any money for what I was doing. What a fail. Not that I expected any, but she squashed the little hope I had as well. They are the largest Self Help Women’s NGO in all of Asia and get grants by the dozen, so you can imagine why I had some hope.
Then they basically told me to read up their brochures and courses they had for the women they taught (I worked for the Sewa Managerni School). And then I was told to turn them to english, summarize them so they could be put on the website. It was ridiculous. I asked if could just help with the website primarily but that wasn’t taken very enthusiastically.
The website is dismal. My other tasks included making a profile format and getting a detailed profile of all the women there as they worked as trainers. That was quite cool, I learnt a lot about them. I moved on to the village trainers many of whom couldn’t understand hindi as they only spoke Kathiawadi or Gujarati.
So I used an interpreter. I’m sure a lot of information was lost in the process which is heart-breaking as most of the women came from abused households where they were mistreated by their in laws and husbands. Their stories about how they took basic courses like needlework, animal husbandry etc. and how to start small grameen banks, self-help groups and businesses has ensured they earn a lot of money now.
Some bought houses, educated their children and came back to work with SEWA to return the favour. It was a beautiful experience.
However, I have no idea where those profiles went as nothing was done about them, and my initial enthusiam also ebbed after seeing the lack of response from the senior members. More often than not, if the office head was away I was let alone and allowed to do what I wante as nobody helped me out in contacting the women.
Also, many people from other countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan etc also got the same training were also called and given the same training. Again, I wasn’t allowed to meet them. Out of the four weeks there, I must have worked for a total of 5 days substantially. With no real interning program and experience and no incentive to give me work, they let me die out of boredom also because since I wasn’t fluent in gujarati communicating with the women there was difficult.
I can’t imagine how it must have been for the American intern who worked there but I helped her by giving her some company and somebody to talk to (that’s all she needed, sigh)
Work environment, people
The work environment was quite bad, they made me sit there all day everyday with no days off for 8 hours regardless of the work they gave me. Most of it writing I could have done when I was 10. It wasn’t a pleasant experience.
The people there were quite busy. Most were always off to some place or the other as they worked as trainers for the women there. The only time I talked to them was during lunch where we all sat down and had a community lunch. They jabbered about there household problems in gujarati when I just looked around uncomfortably.
The best things AND the bad things
The good things were definitely the interactions with the village women trainers and junior trainers. There stories were beautiful. Then the work I witnessed the women do, they are helping to make women empowered by making them self employed. It’s brilliant. The NGO does great work.
Then there was Sarah, the American intern I made friends with who worked there everyday regardless of the communication problems, different culture and lack of general understanding of the country she was in. She worked mainly with such NGO’s and was in China before this one. I knew she missed home terribly and had a fiance who she wrote to everyday without fail.
We ended up being fast friends by the end of four weeks. She never complained, and always dressed in proper Indian clothes. She was the reason I stayed on despite the fact that most of my time there was just being wasted.
Overall, I hated the experience there. Language was definitely a major hurdle. And so was their lack of genuine interest, the women there had too much work and without a set internship program they had no idea what I could and could not do. My potential was completely wasted.
All my ideas rejected and my enthusiasm dimmed after the first week.
I personally would never recommend this NGO and particularly the part I worked in to anyone. There are better NGO’s that respect their interns and make them work hard.
There was no stipend and I spent a hell of a lot on transport in that month. Plus there were no other interns of my age. Sarah worked and got paid so she was busy too. Being that lonely was terribly depressing.
I think the absolutely greatest thing was the day I completed the internship and left. All my spirits lifted and I finally felt like I could breathe again.
Accommodation etc. What did you to do chill in and around the office and the place of stay?
I lived at home. I was working in my hometown. I never chilled in office. It was depressing, there weren’t even any shops around I could go to. And when I was at home, I had a ball. Plus all my friends were there so I hung out with them after hours.
I sincerely recommend nobody from Ahmedabad go work there. There are better places to intern. And work with your friends!